Brazil has 214 million people. Covering an area of 8,515,767 square kilometres, it is the largest country in South America and Latin America. Brazil is the largest country to have Portuguese as an official language and the only one in the Americas (the other South American nations speak Spanish). Due to over a century of mass immigration, Brazil is a multicultural country today (47.7% White; 43.13% Mixed; 7.61% Black; 1.09% East Asian; and 0.43% Indigenous). In 1500, Portuguese navigator Pedro Alvares officially discovered Brazil and claimed the land for the Kingdom of Portugal. He had 13 vessels with him. Sugar cane mills began to appear in 1516. The first African slaves arrived in 1539. In 1600s, the Portuguese fought the Dutch (Netherlands) for prominence in Brazil – the Portuguese eventually won. In 1750, Portugal signed a treaty with Spain, which effectively fixed areas of rule in the continent of South America. The first Brazil census of 1798 counts 2 million Blacks in a total population of 3.25 million. After France under Napoleon I invaded Portugal in 1807, the Portuguese Royal Court of about 420 people including Queen Maria I, left Lisbon in Portugal for Rio de Janeiro in Brazil – and Rio de Janeiro became the Portuguese capital. So, between 1808 and 1821, the royals from Portugal ran both Brazil and their European homeland from Rio de Janeiro. In 1821, Portugal was in a severe political crisis that obliged the Royal Court to return to Portugal. In 1822, the son of Portuguese king who remained in Brazil declared independence from Portugal and crowned himself Peter I, Emperor of Brazil. War of Independence of Brazil ensued till 1825 – the eventual Portuguese withdrawal was largely peaceful as Portugal was occupied with political crisis at home. To seal the deal, the British helped negotiate a treaty whereby Brazil paid 2 million pounds to Portugal for the loss of its colony, funded with a loan from Britain. In 1831, slave trading was forbidden but the law is largely ignored – slavery was finally abolished in 1888. In 1889, the Monarchy was overthrown, and a federal republic was established with central government controlled by coffee interests. Brazil produced 65% of world’s coffee by 1902. The years 1890 to 1930 saw large scale immigration from Europe (4 million) and Japan (200,000). Today, Brazil is a regional power, middle power in international affairs and a newly industrialised country. It is a major breadbasket and has been the largest producer of coffee for 150 years. But the country has high amounts of corruption and crime, with high numbers of recorded murders.

  1. In about 2,000 words, I will describe major events that affected the Brazil from 1900 to the present.
  2. 1902 – Rodrigues Alves becomes President of Brazil with 91.7% of the vote.
  3. 1904 – Ford begin selling cars in Brazil.
  4. 1906 – The Treaty of Limits between Brazil and the Netherlands (Dutch) is signed in Rio de Janeiro, establishing the international boundary between Brazil and the Dutch colony of Surinam.
  5. 1908 – The Kasato Maru ship arrives in Brazil with the first official group of Japanese immigrants.
  6. 1913 – Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific and Survey Expedition. Following a speaking tour in Brazil and Argentina, former US President Theodore Roosevelt meets up with Candido Rondon (a Brazil military officer) to embark on a joint exploration of the “River of Doubt” in the Amazon basin.
  7. 1917 – World War One. Brazil initially adopted a neutral position, wanting to maintain the markets for its export products, mainly coffee, latex and industrial manufactured items. But following repeated sinking of Brazilian merchant ships by German submarines, Brazil declares war on the Central Powers including Germany. Brazil was the only country in Latin America to be directly involved in the war. The major participation was the Brazilian Navy’s patrol of areas of the Atlantic Ocean.
  8. 1923 – Brazil’s first radio broadcasting station, the Radio Society of Rio de Janeiro, is founded; it is still working under the name Radio MEC.
  9. 1929 – The US stock market crash causes a fall in coffee quotations to 60%. (Export tax caused a 60% drop in consumption in order to keep coffee prices constant.)
  10. 1930 – Brazilian Revolution. An armed insurrection ended the First Brazilian Republic. The ruling junta hands power and the presidential palace to Getulio Vargas, a wealthy son of a ‘gaucho (horseman)’, ‘pro-industrial nationalist’ and ‘anti-communist’ governor of Rio Grande do Sul. Getulio Vargas dominated Brazilian politics for the next 24 years. He assumes total power, brings in social security and minimum wage. He nationalised the oil, electricity and steel industries. The working class supported Getulio Vargas.
  11. 1932 – Women win the right to vote.
  12. 1934 – The Getulio Vargas government introduces what will be the shortest-lived Constitution of Brazil, lasting only 3 years (until 1937). It is the first time a Brazilian constitution has been written from scratch by directly elected deputies in multi-party elections, and incorporates a number of improvements to Brazilian political, social and economic life. In the presidential election, carried out by the Constituent Assembly, acting president Getulio Vargas receives 175 of the 248 votes
  13. 1934 – The University Sao Paulo is established.
  14. 1937 – The third Brazilian Constitution is granted by President Getulio Vargas, starting the Estado Novo (New State). President Getulio Vargas signs the ordinance which extinguishes all political parties in the country. He rules as a dictator to carry out reforms. He was not a totalitarian dictator – and was popular with the working class.
  15. 1939 (to 1945) – World War Two. Brazil initially declares itself neutral but in 1943 it joins the Allies.
  16. 1942 – World War Two. Brazil breaks diplomatic relations with the Axis (German) countries. Several Brazilian vessels are torpedoed by the Germans. Brazil declares war against Germany and Italy. Brazil is the only Latin American country to take an active part in the war.
  17. 1943 – World War Two. On the recommendation of the National Petroleum Council, Brazil bans the use of private motorcycles throughout the nation in order to conserve fuel. Use of petrol-powered automobiles had been prohibited the year before.
  18. 1943 – World War Two. The Brazilian passenger ship and freighter Bage, largest commercial ship in Brazil’s fleet carrying 129 passengers and 102 crew, is torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Brazil by a German U-boat. Seventy-eight people (41 passengers and 37 crew) are lost.
  19. 1944 – World War Two. Brazilian air-land forces go into action in Italy.
  20. 1945 – After the war, President Getulio Vargas is ousted in a military coup. Brazil then experimented with democracy.
  21. 1946 – A new constitution is introduced – the Fourth Republic. The new constitution returns power to the states and restores the rights of individuals.
  22. 1950 – First television broadcasting begins.
  23. 1951 – Getulio Vargas wins presidential elections. A series of crises followed, reaching a climax on 5 August 1954, when assassins murdered an air force officer and attempted to kill Carlos Lacerda, the editor of an opposition newspaper. Subsequent investigations revealed that the president’s personal guard had hired the assassins and that corruption was widespread within the administration.
  24. 1953 – Founding of national oil company, Petrobras.
  25. 1954 – President Getulio Vargas commits suicide (shot himself through the heart) after being accused of involvement in a conspiracy to murder his chief political opponent, Carlos Lacerda. The military gave him the options of resigning or being overthrown. The suicide engendered sympathy for Getulio Vargas’ policies and his followers.
  26. 1956 (to 1961) – President Juscelino Kubitschek unveils a five-year plan aiming to achieve rapid industrialization. He achieves rapid economic growth.
  27. 1960 – President Juscelino Kubitschek moves Brazils’ capital from Rio de Janeiro, 930 kms away to the new city, Brasilia, in the highlands. Juscelino Kubitschek wanted capital Brasilia to focus attention on the interior of the country, hasten settlement of the region, and develop its untapped resources.
  28. 1961 – Joao Goulart took over the presidency.
  29. 1962 – The first official group of Korean immigrants arrive in Brazil. Later, there is a large flow of documented Korean migrants to Brazil.
  30. 1964 – The military overthrows Brazilian President Joao Goulart in a coup, starting a 21-year dictatorship in Brazil (to 1985). Military rule is associated with repression but also with rapid economic growth based on state-ownership of key sectors.
  31. 1969 (to 1974) – Under General Emílio Garrastazu Medici, state terrorism is used against insurgents, but the economy soars.
  32. 1969 – Playing in Rio de Janeiro, the famous Brazilian footballer Pele scored his 1,000th goal.
  33. 1984 – 1.5 million people occupy the streets of Sao Paulo for the return of democratic rights and direct presidential elections. It is the largest public demonstration in the history of Brazil. (Later, elections are granted in 1989.)
  34. 1982 – Latin American debt crisis. Brazil has the largest national debt in the Third World.
  35. 1985 – Brazil’s government is finally returned to civilian rule.
  36. 1988 – Brazil adopts a new constitution which reduces presidential powers and gives its citizens more individual rights.
  37. 1989 – Brazil holds its first free presidential election since 1960.
  38. 1992 – UN Earth Summit is held in Rio de Janeiro, at the time it was the largest-ever gathering of heads of state and government.
  39. 1998 – International Monetary Fund provides rescue package after the economy is hit by collapse of Asian stock markets.
  40. 2000 – Brazil celebrates its 500th anniversary (since 1500) as a country.
  41. 2002 – Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, popularly known as Lula, wins presidential elections to head the first left-wing government in more than 40 years.
  42. 2002 – Brazil is crowned world champions in football (soccer) at the World Cup for the fifth time (held in Japan).
  43. 2004 – Wave of land invasions, dubbed “Red April” by landless campaigners.
  44. 2004 – Brazil launches its first space rocket.
  45. 2005 – Murder of US-born missionary and campaigner for Amazon peasant farmers, Dorothy Stang throws conflict over land and resources in Amazon into spotlight. Government unveils plan to protect part of region from encroachment.
  46. 2006 – Brazil becomes self-sufficient in oil.
  47. 2007 – Government recognises human-rights abuses carried out under the military dictatorship between 1964 and 1985.
  48. 2007 – The leaders of Brazil, Bolivia and Chile agree to build a highway by 2009 that would link the Atlantic coast (in Brazil) and the Pacific coast (in Chile) of South America. (The highway was completed in 2014.)
  49. 2008 – A congressional commission rejects a bid to legalise abortion in the world’s most populous Catholic nation.
  50. 2008 – Government launches scheme offering cash payments and immunity for illegal weapons, in an effort to get 300,000 guns off the streets.
  51. 2009 – The government sets up a truth commission to investigate abuses committed during 21-year military rule in Brazil from 1964 to 1985. The commission lasted for 2 years and consisted of 7 members. Members of the commission had access to all government files from the period 1946 to 1988, and could ask victims or people accused of violations to testify; although it was not mandatory for them to do so. On 10 December 2014, the commission issued a report with its findings. The report identified the participation of 337 agents of Brazilian government involved in human rights violations, including arbitrary prisons, forced disappearances, torture and subsequent death of political opponents to the dictatorship. According to the report, 434 people were killed or disappeared by actions of the military regime, together with over 8,300 across the indigenous people. The Truth Commission admits that the real figure of indigenous people killed is probably much higher.
  52. 2009 – The International Olympic Committee awards the 2016 Summer Olympics to Rio de Janeiro.
  53. 2011 – Government launches Brasil Sem Miseria (Brazil Without Poverty) welfare scheme, aimed at lifting millions out of extreme poverty.
  54. 2011 – A Chevron-owned oil well began leaking causing 32,000 to 52,000 litres of crude oil to enter the ocean every day. The leak took place in Campos Basin, 120 kilometres off the coast of Rio de Janeiro.
  55. 2012 – Parliament approves affirmative action law for universities that requires them to reserve 50% of their places for state school students, and increases the number of spaces allotted to black, mixed-race and indigenous students.
  56. 2013 – A wave of protests sweeps the country. People take to the streets in dozens of cities to demonstrate over poor public services and rising public transport costs. 
  57. 2015 – Petrobras state oil company implicated in massive corruption scandal that brings hundreds of thousands onto the streets in protest at President Dilma Rousseff, who was the company chairperson during the period in question.
  58. 2016 – Hundreds of thousands of people in Brazil protest against corruption and denounce the government of President Dilma Rousseff.
  59. 2016 – Summer Olympics Games are held in Rio de Janeiro.
  60. 2016 – The Senate votes 61–20 in favour of removing Dilma Rousseff from office as President of Brazil for illegally using money from state banks to bankroll public spending.
  61. 2016 – The Senate approves 20-year government spending freeze billed as the centrepiece of the government austerity reforms aimed at restoring economic health to Brazil.
  62. 2017 – A general strike is held in Brazil, the first one in 20 years.
  63. 2019 – Former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (known as Lula) begins serving a 12-year sentence for corruption. Lula was set free after 580 days in jail. In March 2021, the court annulled all the cases brought against Lula.
  64. 2019 – Far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro becomes president. He is a former army captain and seven-term legislator. 
  65. 2020 – President Jair Bolsonaro causes controversy by refusing to support measures to halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
  66. 2020 (to 2021) – COVID-19 pandemic caused more than 590,000 deaths in Brazil.
  67. 2021 – Brazil has 214 million people.

© Comasters October 2021.

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